“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Jesus made some amazing promises. He has kept, is keeping or will keep them all. Most are encouraging, life-giving, and filled with hope. A few, however, have an edge to them that is darker… more blunt.
Such is the promise in John 16:33 where He promised, “in this world you will have tribulation….” As one older, mountain pastor interpreted it, “when Jesus promises tribulation, you are going to tribulate.”
We solemnly nod our heads in assent to that homespun wisdom. We will “tribulate” in this world. If you haven’t you will. “All God’s chillun got troubles.”
We are sometimes stunned, however, by the forms that tribulation takes.
This past weekend, a Sunday-morning worship service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was shattered by the sounds of gunfire. Rounds of ammunition fired by the hands of a madman ripped through the small, family church.
At the end of the carnage, twenty six people had died. Many of them children and among those, the pastor’s fourteen-year-old daughter. Bodies quickly overwhelmed the small coroner’s office, and the attention of the nation and much of the world turned to this sleepy corner south of San Antonio, Texas.
Tribulation. Not just a bad day, or a long line of traffic blocking your way home to or from work. Tribulation is ugly. Unfair. Unjust. The agony of this day will live in the minds of many until Jesus wipes all tears from our eyes.
Ann Voskamp wrote, “There is no fear in letting tears come. Sadness is a gift to avoid the nothingness of numbness, and all hard places need some water.”
In this world we will see, feel and know tribulation. It is heart-shattering to think of the dozens of funerals that will have to be attended, and to see a church try to dig out of the rubble of this past weekend.
But the rubble may be present in your life too. Life’s challenges and frustrations, difficulties and anxieties crowd in on us and we cry out, “How long, O Lord?” As I write this on one device, I am helping a friend confront those very realities on another. He is “tribulating” (my spellcheck doesn’t like that word… but neither do I).
When it’s your turn to tribulate, make sure you add these two elements to your experience:
- Pray that this suffering that God is ALLOWING will not be wasted. Pray that your endurance may be a testimony even in the pain. I pray that for the church in Texas.
- Remember. Remember. Remember that this verse promising tribulation does not end there, but with an assurance that Jesus said, “But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”
In tribulation, despair or joy… He has promised His abiding peace.